“Please give us time to do the work but when I sit here in four years, I think we may have one title. If not maybe (I’ll win) the next one in Switzerland.”
Jurgen Klopp’s statement shortly after being named Liverpool manager in 2015 seemed bold at the time. For all of Klopp’s achievements in Germany, where he won back-to-back Bundesliga titles with Borussia Dortmund, turning Liverpool into a winning unit was far from an easy task.
The Reds had won just one trophy in the nine years leading up to his appointment: the League Cup in 2012. The team had finished outside the Champions League spots in four out of the previous five campaigns. Their talismanic captain Steven Gerrard had left the club the previous year when Reds were humiliated 6-1 by Stoke City in the final game of that season.
Years of poor recruitment that included spending £35 million on Andy Carroll and £20 million on Stewart Downing had left the squad in pretty bad shape.
However, without the riches of the owners at his disposal like the Manchester clubs or without the kind of top young talent coming through at Tottenham, Klopp engineered a remarkable turnaround for the Reds to hand them their first English top-flight title in thirty years, a season after landing the club’s sixth European Cup.
Disappointing his suitors in Switzerland, Klopp — with help from the Liverpool board and backroom staff — pulled off a stunning overhaul of a mediocre squad. And now they are the masters of the league, winning with a record seven games to spare.
Here’s how the Reds went from mid-table strugglers to champions in the space of nine transfer windows:
Winter Transfer window (2015-’16)
Money spent: £6.3million
Money from player sales: £0.9 million
Net spend: - £5.2 million
January 2016 transfer window
|Steven Caulker (Centre-back)||Marko Grujic (Central Midfielder) on loan|
|Marko Grujic (Central Midfielder)|
In his first transfer window as the Liverpool manager in January 2016, the Reds had just one import. Steven Caulker signed on loan from Queens Park Rangers. Klopp was still assessing his squad and the Premier League.
Gameplay: The Reds used a variety of formations that season but a 4-2-3-1 was most popular. Klopp didn’t have the players at his disposal to enforce his usual high-pressing 4-3-3 system. The Reds finished eighth in the Premier League that season but reached the League Cup and Europa League finals which they lost.
Summer Transfer window (2016-’17)
Money spent: £71.91 million
Money from player sales: £70.9 million
Net spend: £0.11 million
Summer Transfer Window 2016
|Sadio Mane (Forward)||Christian Benteke (Forward)|
|Georginio Wijnaldum (Midfielder)||Jordan Ibe (Forward)|
|Loris Karius (Goalkeeper)||Joe Allen (Midfielder)|
|Ragnar Klavan (Centre-back)||Martin Skrtel (Centre-back)|
|Alexander Manninger (Goalkeeper)||Luis Alberto (Midfielder)|
|Joel Matip (Centre-back)||Mario Balotelli (Forward)|
|Kolo Toure (Centre-back)|
In the summer of 2016, Klopp began bringing in players that suited his style of play.
Sadio Mane arrived from Southampton for a fee of £37 million and Georginio Wijnaldum was signed from relegated Newcastle United for £25 million. Ragnar Klavan and Joel Matip too were signed as the Reds started showing their shrewdness in the market.
In addition, the departures of Christian Benteke, Jordan Ibe, Joe Allen helped raise some much-needed funds. More deadwood was cleared with Martin Skrtel, Kolo Toure and Mario Balotelli being moved on.
Gameplay: Mane made an impact as Klopp shifted to his preferred 4-3-3 formation that season. Flanking Roberto Firmino with Mane and Phillipe Coutinho, Klopp’s team started implementing his typical high-pressing system. With a weaker defence, Klopp’s only way of defending was to press high up the pitch and stopping opponents in the build-up phase.
A promising first half of the season saw Liverpool placed second at Christmas. But the cracks were soon about to appear.
Winter Transfer window (2016-’17) - No changes
It’s not always been smooth sailing, too. There were no arrivals at Liverpool in the January transfer window that season when the team cried out for reinforcements. The lack of defensive additions to the squad affected Klopp’s men as their title challenge collapsed in January.
Gameplay: Liverpool’s defensive limitations were exposed in a 4-3 defeat against Bournemouth as teams found a way to stop Klopp’s sidee. The high-octane gameplay started taking a toll on the players as they finished the season with a whimper.
Crucially though the Reds managed to hold on to fourth place. Despite the struggles in the second half, Klopp’s first full season was a success as he guided the club back into the Champions League. There were glimpses of what Klopp was trying to build at Anfield in years to come.
Summer Transfer window (2017-’18)
Money spent: £80.1 million
Money from player sales: £42.48 million
Net spend: £37.62 million
Summer Transfer Window 2017
|Mohamed Salah (Forward)||Mamadou Sakho (Centre-back)|
|Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Midfielder)||Lucas Leiva (Central Midfield)|
|Andrew Robertson (Left-back)||Divock Origi (Forward) on loan|
|Dominic Solanke (Forward)|
|Divock Origi (Forward)|
Klopp who had gained a grip of the English game, truly stepped up his effort to forge a team that could go from a top-four team to a title challenger. Mohamed Salah arrived from AS Roma, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Arsenal and Andy Robertson from Hull City.
The Egyptian hit the ground running in his second spell in English football after a rather underwhelming first at Chelsea. His addition made the goals flow for Liverpool.
Gameplay: Klopp now shifted Mane to his preferred left position, as Salah played on the right. The duo formed a lethal partnership with Roberto Firmino as Liverpool became a potent attacking force.
The effects of Liverpool’s ultra-attacking play was felt at the back though as they leaked plenty of goals. Despite looking more like a typical Klopp team, the Reds had their vulnerabilities.
Winter Transfer window (2017-’18)
Money spent: £76.4 million
Money from player sales: £132.6 million
Net spend: - £55.8 million
Winter Transfer Window 2018
|Virgil Van Dijk (Centre-back)||Phillipe Coutinho (Midfielder)|
The January transfer window is not looked at as an opportunity to make big, major changes. But Liverpool made perhaps the most crucial move in their transformation under Klopp in January 2018. With his team struggling to secure a top-four finish, the departure of Philippe Coutinho was seen as a big blow to Klopp’s rebuild, but the £130 million that the Reds received were spent in the most astute manner in the times to come.
Liverpool brought in Virgil van Dijk for £76 million from Southampton. Many questioned the outlay on a centre-back but the Dutchman’s impact was immediate. After van Dijk’s arrival, Reds conceded just 13 goals in the league in contrast to 24 they had leaked in the first part of the season.
Liverpool managed to secure a Champions League place that looked unlikely in January. More importantly, the Reds reached the Champions League final beating the likes of Manchester City on the way.
Gameplay: Klopp opted for a more controlled press after the signing of Van Dijk as the side had a much more secure defence that they could rely on to thwart counter-attacks.
Summer Transfer window (2018-’19)
Money spent: £164 million
Money from player sales: £18.11 million
Net spend: £145.89 million
Summer Transfer Window 2018
|Alisson (Goalkeeper)||Danny Ward (Goalkeeper)|
|Naby Keita (Midfielder)||Ragnar Klavan (Centre-back)|
|Fabinho (Midfielder)||Emre Can (Midfielder)|
|Xherdan Shaqiri (Midfielder)||Jon Flanagan (Left-back)|
In the summer, Klopp and the Reds board set out to polish off what seemed like close to the finished article. With a part of funds from Coutinho transfer still unused, the Reds signed Brazil’s Alisson from Roma to strengthen Liverpool’s Achilles Heel: the goalkeeper position. Naby Keita and Fabinho added robustness to their midfield and Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi added the much-needed depth.
The Reds started the season with a bang and were on top at Christmas.
Gameplay: The Reds played with a lot more restraint and focus on controlling matches than going for Klopp’s usual full-blooded press. This way they were also able to sustain their energy levels for the entire season.
Winter Transfer window (2018-’19) - No changes
The lack of additions in January had no major impact on the Reds who produced their best-ever league season. The brilliance of Guardiola’s Manchester City meant they had to do with a second-place finish despite the record haul for a runner-up of 97 points.
Liverpool, however, went one step better in Europe and claimed their sixth European Cup with a 2-0 win over Tottenham in the final. Klopp had first silverware at Anfield within four years of the start of his tenure and it was the biggest prize of it all.
Summer Transfer window (2019-’20)
Money spent: £1.71 million
Money from player sales: £37.44 million
Net spend: - £35.27 million
Summer Transfer Window 2019
|Sepp Van Der berg (Centre-back)||Danny Ings (Forward)|
|Adrian (Goalkeeper)||Simon Mignolet (Goalkeeper)|
|Andy Lonergan (Goalkeeper)||Daniel Sturridge (Forward)|
|Alberto Moreno (Left-back)|
In the summer transfer window before the current season, the Reds indulged in no major transfer activity with Klopp trusting his team to improve on an already incredible previous season. The few additions made were either one for the future or on the fringes of the squad.
Gameplay: Klopp used an attacking formation of 2-3-5 or a 4-2-4 depending on the opposition’s tactics. The rise of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Roberston as full-backs gave the Reds great tactical flexibility and kept opposition guessing.
In addition, the Reds showed an indomitable spirit throughout the season winning several matches late on to clinch their first Premier League title in 30 years.
Liverpool’s much-cherished victory is an outcome of a machine-like execution of Klopp’s extremely well-rehearsed system, but also a result of well-planed, shrewd transfer business.
Only seven players that Jurgen Klopp inherited when he joined in 2015 are still in the Reds squad this season.
Liverpool managed to topple Manchester City despite having a much lower net spend. Compared to a net spend of £602 million for Manchester City over the last five years, the Reds had a net spend of just £108 million. In fact, the Reds have been one of the most efficient spenders in the Premier League.
Only six clubs have a lower net spend than Liverpool in the Premier League over the last five years and none of those are in the top six at the moment.
Table for net spend for Premier League teams
|Position||Club||Net spend across last five years|
|1||Manchester City|| - £602 million |
|2||Manchester United||- £485 million|
|3||Arsenal||- £271 million|
|4||Everton||- £225 million|
|5||Brighton and Hove Albion||- £215 million|
|6||Wolves||- £205 million|
|7||West Ham United||- £187 million|
|8||Bournemouth||- £177 million|
|9||Aston Villa||- £167 million|
|10||Watford||- £126 million|
|11||Leicester City||- £125 million|
|12||Newcastle United||- £123 million|
|13||Chelsea||- £114 million|
|14||Liverpool||- £108 million|
|15||Tottenham Hotspur||- £107 million|
|16||Crystal Palace||- £75 million|
|17||Burnley||- £59 million|
|18||Sheffield United||- £57 million|
|19||Southampton||- £22 million|
|20||Norwich City||+ £25 million|
With an average age of just over 25, this winning-unit assembled by Liverpool and Klopp is here to stay. The German’s methods that ended Liverpool’s agonising wait for the Premier League would be rightly lauded in the time to come, but their on-point transfer strategy over the last few years would serve as an ultimate blueprint for success for teams who don’t have the deepest of pockets.
Liverpool are back at the summit of English football: now will they get back on to their perch with title No 20? Do not be surprised if this team goes on to dominate the league for a few more years.
(Stats courtesy: Transfermarkt.com)
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